Study: Why drivers should avoid using hands free cellphones

Studies show that hands free cellular devices act a significant source of cognitive distraction to drivers.

Although it is perfectly legal for drivers to talk on hand-held and hands free cellphones in Pennsylvania, researchers are urging motorists to refrain from using any type of cellular device while behind the wheel. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 14 states in the nation prohibit drivers from talking on hand-held cellphones. However, no state bans the use of hands free devices. In fact, many drivers have started using hands free devices as a safe alternative to the hand-held variety. Studies show, however, that even hands free devices are dangerous for drivers to use.

While hands free cellphones eliminate both the manual and visual distractions that hand-held cellphones create, they are still a significant form of cognitive distraction. Engaging in any type of conversation over a hands free cellphone removes a driver’s concentration and focus off of the road and increases the risk for a devastating motor vehicle accident.

Measuring the impact of cognitive distraction

In order to determine whether hands free cellphones act as a significant source of cognitive distraction, researchers had study participants drive in a simulator, as well as a vehicle equipped with specialized monitors. While the participants were behind the wheel, they were asked to participate in a number of tasks. In addition to maintaining a conversation using a hands free cellphone, people were asked to complete the following:

  • Listen to the radio
  • Compose a text or email using a voice-activated device
  • Listen to an audio book
  • Talk to a passenger in the car
  • Speak with someone using a hands-held cellphone

Researchers measured each person’s reaction time, response accuracy and mental workload to determine the amount of cognitive distraction he or she experienced while carrying out these tasks. The participant’s heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity were also measured using event-related brain potentials and electroencephalographs.

The results

Study results showed that using a voice-activated device to compose an email created the most cognitive distraction for drivers. Using a hands free cellphone while driving led to a moderate increase in mental distraction, which proved to be significant.

Surviving a distracted driving car accident

When you become involved in a serious auto accident caused by another person’s negligent actions, it can become overwhelming. Not only are you faced with issues like property damage and insurance claims, but you may have received debilitating injuries as well. A Pennsylvania lawyer may be helpful in answering your questions and exploring your legal options. You may even be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, emotional trauma and lost wages from work.